Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 3 News List

KMT lawmakers criticize Abu Dhabi stop

TRANSIT TROUBLES The legislators called the stop a low point in the nation's diplomatic history and said foreign ministry officials should take responsibility

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

KMT Legislator and former foreign minister John Chiang points to a globe during a press conference yesterday while saying that it is a matter of national security that President Chen Shui-bian does not know what route he will follow during his visit to diplomatic allies in Central and Latin America.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators yesterday lashed out after the president made a transit stop in Abu Dhabi en route to Central and South America, saying that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials should take responsibility for the arrangement.

"Although I guessed the transit point correctly, I am not happy at all. It's sad to see all this," KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) said.

Before the president's plane landed in Abu Dhabi late yesterday, reports speculated that it might land in Lebanon or Jordan.

Su said Lebanon and Jordan couldn't be used as transit points as it was impossible for the president's plane to land in airports that were unfamiliar with the plane.

He did not elaborate.

"It was no surprise that the transit stop was Abu Dhabi because the United Arab Emirates is a business-oriented nation. But for Taiwan, transiting through Abu Dhabi could mark the lowest point in the nation's diplomatic history," Su said.

KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴), a former foreign minister, said that a stopover in Abu Dhabi was a total failure

Chiang said the Abu Dhabi stop was no diplomatic breakthrough.

"The arrangement shows that the foreign affairs minister didn't have good communication with other countries. I will ask ministry officials to take responsibility," Chiang said.

Chiang doubted whether the president's plane took off without knowing where it would stop over.

"If it was the case, I think the president took the tactic of so-called `transit diplomacy' too far," he said.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), while sharing his regret yesterday over the change in the president's stopover plan, said yesterday that officials were not to be blamed for the incident.

"We hope that diplomatic staff will not be blamed for the change of plan," Ma said.

Declining to comment more on Chen's trip to Latin America, he said he wished the president a successful trip.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) yesterday urged pan-blue lawmakers not to gloat over the diplomatic difficulties the president encountered and to be more supportive and understanding of Chen's efforts for Taiwan.

"President Chen is able to transit a country that Taiwan's presidents never landed in during their state visits. We wonder why the pan-blue lawmakers cannot simply view it as a diplomatic breakthrough, instead of taking it as a chance to attack and mock the president," Yeh said.

"We are really sorry about their remarks," Yeh said.

DPP caucus whip Chen Chin-jun (陳景峻) said that China suppressed Taiwan's diplomatic space by every means, yet the pan-blue camp turned a blind eye to Beijing's actions and instead criticized the efforts Chen made for the country.

"Pan-blue legislators do not criticize China and visit China all the time. They even echo China's suppression, which is so ironic," Chen Chin-jun said.

Yeh also criticized Chiang's comments about the transit stop, saying his remarks only showed he had been removed from diplomatic affairs for too long.

Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih

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